When Cancer Eats at You

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A young boy whose mother thought it unnecessary to call him by name after he’d passed away lost his battle with cancer on his way home from Hope for Women Clinic in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, a few weeks ago.

Because of the nature of this story, the family has asked not to be named or pictured.

“It is cancer because I took him to the cancer hospital and they told me that there is nothing they can do because it has eaten his entire brain, left eye and body. They sent us home and said I should find a quiet place for him to pass,” the boy’s mother managed to say in broken English.

She had come all the way from Guinea hoping to find a solution to her son’s condition.

As the conversation continued in the taxi, concerned passengers asked the mother to unwrap the baby from her back while in commute.

“Che! Let breeze touch your baby. Why are you keeping the diaper over his head?” they asked.

One of the passengers noticed that the boy’s hand was stiff, that he appeared pale, and raised an alarm thinking that he was seriously sick. Everyone in the car wanted an explanation, which led to the mother hurriedly stopping the taxi to get out.

Propped on her back was her dead infant; at least, that’s how small he looked until she told this paper that he was over three years of age before passing.

Frightened and out of ideas on where to take his corpse, the Daily Observer reporter suggested that the child be taken to a cemetery for quick burial as the cause of death was already established; but the mother refused.

“No! We are going home. I will find a place to carry him. We will be going back to Guinea,” she said, still in shock.

Years back, some Liberians thought cancer was the result of witchcraft or some sort of ‘African science’; but today, with greater awareness and widespread information, cancer is better understood.

When a mysterious knot (lump) appears on any part of the body, Liberians are encouraged to quickly visit the nearest hospital.

“Cancer is the number one killer in many women who have had more than six children. You find a lot of women get these growths in their stomachs and when you test it, more than likely it turns out to be cancer,” stated Marthalaine, a gynecological health physician working in Monrovia.

“Sometimes babies get cancer without the mother getting it because it can skip generations. That’s the one we call second generation cancer, which happened in this little boy’s case,” she added.

According to surgeons working in private clinics, who were vox popped during a survey, some cancer patients take the risk of getting the lump surgically removed without testing the tumor, which poses a dangerous risk of the cancer spreading to the rest of the body.

“While some prefer a cancer check to know the right prognosis, a lot of people see this lump that grows each month and pay as little as US$10 to have it removed or drained. Most often it comes back, bigger in size, until it spreads and takes over the entire body,” she adds.

Meanwhile, there are many children with knots and growths whose parents have made appeals to the Liberian government and anyone who would listen to help them find out the cause and cure.

Most of their cries have gone unheeded, mainly because cancer is a disease that can be treated, but costs a lot of money to be cured. Therefore, many of these children have passed away, like baby Gabriel, or have disappeared, like little Enoch, because help or treatment did not reach them in time.

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